To date the death toll in Crimea since Russian forces have occupied the peninsula is five. The deaths have taken place during the past several days. Two deaths came after a pro-Russian force stormed a Ukrainian army base–one death on each side of the conflict. Two deaths resulted from a sniper opening fire on both Ukrainians and pro-Russians, killing one of each. The fifth death was that of a Tatar man who was carried away from a protest two weeks ago and recently turned up–his discarded body showing evidence of torture.
The first known death was discovered March 17. Reshat Ametov, a 39-year-old Tatar father of three, had been missing for two weeks after being last seen at Lenin Square in front of the Crimean Council of Ministers building, where he was participating in a small-scale protest. Crimean television news channel ATR showed video footage of three men leading Ametov out of the square. Two men were wearing military-style jackets and one wore a black uniform. None of the three wore identifying insignia on their clothing. The three men have not been identified.
The body of Ametov was found dumped outside the town of Belogorsk. The body had transparent tape around its hands and head, and bore marks of torture, according to local media reports.
Tatars, who account for 12 percent of the population of Crimea, have been promised representation at local government under Russian rule, as well as financial aid and better land rights. These promises are not believed by many Tatars. During the March 16 referendum, in which nearly 100 percent of voters supported joining with Russia–reportedly–Tatar leaders called for a boycott. Other Tatars, however, have been reported to have wanted to vote, but did not receive voter cards.
Rachel Denber, Human Rights Watch’s deputy Europe and Central Asia director commented on the death, “For weeks, armed masked men who refuse to identify themselves have harassed and intimidated people,” asserting that the failure of Crimean authorities to halt the mistreatment and investigate offenders emboldened their actions.
On March 18, four deaths occurred–two on the Ukrainian side and two on the pro-Russian side. These deaths were the result of at least two incidents.
Pro-Russian forces, armed with automatic weapons and disguised by ski masks, arrived at a Ukrainian military base in an unmarked vehicle, where they crashed the gate and stormed the base. In the fight that followed, one Ukrainian junior officer was killed and two other Ukrainians servicement were wounded. Later that day, a Crimean new agency reported that a pro-Russian defence force member had also been shot dead.
Also March 18, a sniper opened fire near a small military topography research center in Simferopol. The sniper fired from a partially inhabited building. Although early reports stated that the sniper had been arrested, authorities later confirmed that the sniper had not been found.
According to the Crimean Interior Ministry, a pro-Russian self defense force had been investigating a report of a group of armed men inside the building when the force came under fire. The shooting, it was reported, came from one location and was aimed in two directions. One pro-Russian forces member was killed and another wounded. One Ukrainian soldier stationed at the research center was also killed, and one Ukrainian soldier was wounded.
Three of these deaths have been noted for their similarity to events that took place during the Euromaidan movement in Kiev and elsewhere. Human Rights Watch documented at least six abductions of activists by self-defense units at the protests. Russia’s Channel One reported on the sniper shooting, a report in which de facto Crimean Prime Minister Sergey Aksynov stated that the two deaths at the sniper incident were the result of provocation, or sabotage, and concluded that because one attacker fired at both sides, the techniques were the same as those used at Maidan,
By Day Blakely Donaldson